Drink Tank

Lockout laws work, and other unpopular truths about alcohol

There are two approaches to a problem. One is to acknowledge its existence and make money perpetuating it. The other is to face unpopular truths and implement strategies that can actually make progress.

In an ideal world, alcohol wouldn’t cause violence. Everyone could happily laze away sunny days with frosty glasses in their hands and play nice.

However, the world we live in is three million miles from ideal.

While it might be an uncomfortable truth for a nation in love with booze, alcohol does cause violence and there are specific recommendations that need government backing to ensure positive change.

We’ve seen some of these implemented in New South Wales and more recently in Queensland. But, despite their success, liquor laws are now under threat and there’s reluctance from other governments to follow suit.

Professor Peter Miller, Professor of Violence Prevention and Addiction Studies at Deakin University says the evidence is clear.

“Lockout laws and last drinks work,” he says. “That might not be popular to say, but it’s the truth. The vast majority of the population know it makes sense to move closing times to 3am rather than 5am. The resources it takes to drag police away from their real duties to enable pubs and clubs to trade later is disgraceful. It’s grossly irresponsible of governments.”

The connection between alcohol and violence is evident – and proven. Violence causes harm on our streets, and goes unseen behind closed doors.

As Professor Miller points out, family and domestic violence is a key area where alcohol’s role is often ignored in favour of a gendered ideology that’s much more simplistic than complex reality.

“The media picks and chooses which facts to report in the area of domestic violence,” says Miller. “Regardless of whether alcohol or drugs are involved, female perpetrators amass up to 25 per cent within specific age groups, in some states.

“Our societal approach is fundamentally flawed. There is no scientific truth to a gendered approach whatsoever. The real key is psychological predisposition around people with aggression: the ‘Dark Triad’. The aggressive psychological profiles are narcissic, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.

“These are found in people of both sexes. It’s not simply a question of gender; it’s about whether you’re aggressive. It’s immensely complex and you can’t possibly single out a single cause. To blame men isn’t helping as it doesn’t address the underlying issues. Gender norms may contribute in some cultures, but in the developed world, these psychological traits appear to be the major factor,” said Professor Miller.

If we’re serious about tackling the issue of violence in Australia, instead of entering into complex gender discussions we need to start addressing contributing factors like alcohol, drugs, and mental health.

The Victorian Government is currently reviewing its Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 – the first substantial review of Victoria’s liquor licensing legislation in almost 20 years.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC), an alliance of 13 health and community organisations, has made 43 recommendations that would make an immediate and substantial reduction in alcohol harm.

APC says in a statement, “alcohol has been proven to increase the frequency and severity of family violence. It contributes to 53 per cent of the family violence incidents attended by police, which is around 65,000 incidents a year. Worryingly these harms are increasing, and it’s been linked with the boom in liquor licences in Victoria.”

The unpopular truth is that alcohol is responsible for three deaths and more than 100 hospitalisations every day in Victoria.

In the long term, the health problems resulting from alcohol abuse are extensive. It’s responsible for  5,500 cases of cancer in Australia each year.

The current system is clearly failing to reduce harm.

How much more scientific evidence do policymakers and governments need?

How much clearer can the recommendations be?

Isn’t it time Victoria, and other governments, started taking expert advice and adopting measures to protect society?

Isn’t it time we took a step away from fictitious, dangerous gender ideologies?

Isn’t it time we all face unpopular truths, take necessary action and start actioning strategies that can actually make progress?

Corrine Barraclough is a freelance writer. Find her on Facebook here.

Corrine Barraclough

Corrine Barraclough is a freelance writer based on the Gold Coast. She's been a journalist for nearly 20 years and held senior positions at several national magazines in London and New York before moving to Sydney to edit NW magazine. She now lives by the beach, has her work/life balance in order, and is proud to say she stopped drinking alcohol well over a year ago. Corrine is passionate about alcohol education and personal responsibility.

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